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Friday, June 18, 2010

On being in public

A few days ago I decided to stop in at a local grocery store on my way home from work and deposit my paycheck at the ATM there. Spur of the moment, but whatevs, I live on the edge ok?? So I park, walk into the grocery store and there's a middle-aged white guy using the ATM. I wait awkwardly (there isn't much space to just hang out, the ATM is located RIGHT at the entrance to the grocery store and I had to keep moving to get out of people's way as they entered/left), and the guy tries to engage me. He says something like "I'll only be a few more minutes, I swear." I was texting on my phone by this time, so I just kinda murmured in agreement, not really paying attention or even caring. I obviously wasn't interested in any witty banter with this dude, and I thought I made myself clear. Then a few seconds later, he says something to the effect of "See?? All done!" at which point was my cue to ... chuckle? give him a cookie? reward him for his ability to accurately predict how long his ATM transactions take? I gave him a painful wince and refused to make eye contact as he walked away. This was a relatively minor incident, nothing horrendous was said, no one was hurt, but it sure is annoying as fuck. What I don't get is, why when I (and most women) are in public, is it expected that our autonomy/personal space/right to zone out can be violated just... because? No reason at all, he just thought that I should engage with him, because I'm a nice girl and nice girls always give a smile when a guy engages them. But... I didn't really want to have anything to do with him, it wasn't anything personal (honestly, I hate going out in public alone, and I hate having to interact with people I don't know. It's stressful for me ok?!) but he just HAD to go and test that boundary anyway. It wasn't enough to just let me wait and text in peace; he had to talk to me and WOOHOO let me know that he was there. OMG a white man is standing right in front of you!! You should be paying attention young lady!!

Ugh. This is an everyday thing for me, to be honest. Just walking around my place of work results in all kinds of awkward intrusions on my private ruminations by men (it's a college campus! I'm not even on the street!*) And it's so fucking normalized that I'm the rude one for not responding to them bothering me. I think men don't understand what it's like to just BE in public and have people constantly try to talk to you or stare at you or compare your body to those of your companions or to have your ass loudly remarked upon in a crowd of people as if you can't even hear the fucker right behind you. It's harassment, and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of feeling like "Shit, I don't want to go to the [insert public location here] alone, I'm gonna end up in some awkward sitch again and I'm going to feel responsible for it." I'm just trying to go about my day, people! Why can't I buy groceries or take a walk to the park or lay out on the beach without some asswipe insisting on making conversation with me? Am I so irresistible?? Am I REALLY that interesting?? Or is it because I look like I couldn't seriously be LESS excited about you following me to my car and repeatedly asking me for a date that you decided to do just that. People like this, people with no respect for boundaries, people who feel the need to assert themselves on others in public, people who MUST BE PAID ATTENTION TO DAMNIT, they are a glaring example of rape culture. No one has the right to another person's smile or conversation in public. No one has the right to bother or harass another person, to elicit a reaction, to make themselves feel better by forcing a stranger to engage with them in conversation. And I, for one, will continue to thwart these douches and their attempts to intrude on my public space by being as bitchy and unfriendly as possible :D

*I'm not trying to imply that "The Street" is any more dangerous, but that generally people have perceptions that this kind of stuff does not happen on private christian college campuses. This is a widespread myth that only perpetuates rape culture further, and prevents us from seeing it and addressing it.

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